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Here are the responses from key Tennessee political representatives.

  • Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett (R): “It’s a horrible, horrible situation,” Burchett told reporters. “And we’re not gonna fix it. Criminals are gonna be criminals. My daddy fought in the Second World War, fought in the Pacific, fought the Japanese, and he told me … ‘Buddy, if somebody wants to take you out and doesn’t mind losing their life, there’s not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it.”

Burchett voted against a bill expanding gun background in 2021. He was one of 62 Republicans who voted against a bill to support hate crime victims; voted against reauthorizing Violence Against Women Act; and supported efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Wow! What a profile in courage.

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Unfortunately, America continues to repeat its idiotic insanity and love of weaponry. Today, a 28-year-old woman reportedly shot and killed 3 students and 3 adults at The Covenant school in Nashville, Tennessee. During the afternoon’s wanning hours, the NRA mass shooting playbook was pulled from the rolodex. The instructions read accordingly.

  • Acknowledge the sadness.
  • Tweet your prayers and love to those impacted.
  • Hold a moment of silence, preferably in public as it looks humble.
  • Say it’s too soon to discuss meaningful gun law changes while the nation heals.
  • Do nothing.

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The answering machine indicated the presence of a new voice message. “This is Doctor ‘I will perform surgery’ ENT. It’s time to schedule your ear surgery.” The very sound of the receptionist instantly transported me back to late October 2022.

“You don’t have Ménière’s,” the ENT stated. “Whatever you have, it’s more neurological.” However, he believed otosclerosis (a term derived from ‘oto,’ meaning “of the ear,” and ‘sclerosis’, meaning “abnormal hardening of body tissue”) and that surgery could fix that. “I can perform the surgery in April 2023. First, we’ll perform a CAT scan of the ear to ensure there’s nothing else happening; then, we’ll schedule the surgery.” The scan showed no Ménière’s-like damage, and I canceled the surgery. (I’ll give the ENT doctor an ‘A’ for effort.)

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Weird. Just Weird

There’s a moment in everyone’s life when the morning alarm sounds, and you smack the ‘snooze button.’ “Oh God,” we whisper, “Just five minutes more.” That very moment begins another day of weirdness. For instance, I chose to drive to work yesterday. And there’s that weird moment when a white Toyota confused me. At that moment, I lost orientation. Where am I? What am I doing? Where am I going? Why am I here at this spot? What the hell is a white Toyota out here? I couldn’t place my finger on it. Ten minutes later, my brain operated flawlessly. It was weird.

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Question: When diagnosed with severe illness, do you fight like hell or walk away (from life)? When faced with the ultimate choice, there may be offers of comfortable, safe, warm places to stay. However, in the end, will you choose the solitude and movement of life or pour a host of chemicals through your body’s veins in hopes of living three, six, or nine months more? There will be a myriad of kindnesses and struggles, each bringing people together and, on occasion, sometimes challenging their commitment to the vision set for themselves. 

To be more visionary, stringing the body to repeated rounds of chemotherapy offers non-joyful, conflicted rounds of clinical togetherness through an endless maze of medical tests. Moments such as these highlight that aging in America makes people invisible. Even in crowded waiting rooms, in the thunderous booms of clanging bedpans, like a salmon swimming upstream against the tide of infirmity, one wanders the solitary existence of medical marvel. Even in such moments, it’s hard for the ship to remain moored, but it’s never wholly undone.

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Cancer is My Job

Bone ache has increased its presence since the last blog post in early February. It makes one weary, and the angel of death suddenly feels more present than ever. It’s not that I am on death’s door. At least not yet. But it’s gnawing its way closer. (At least, that’s how I feel.)

My energy is decreasing. By 7 PM, the bed looks wonderfully beautiful and seduces me with potential dreams of another world. I want to eat, but I cannot. And I hunger for sustenance, but eating makes me nauseous. “Forty-one pounds,” I muttered to myself. “Wow. Forty-one pounds lost since mid-October 2022.”

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When people receive a cancer diagnosis, they are stunned. I wasn’t. The clinician was direct and matter-of-fact. “We suspect cancer.” The calmness was amazing. Not my calmness. His. Thinking back on the exchange, I wish the clinician had hyped it a little more, like that old Dell commercial. “Dude. You’re getting a Dell.” Fist bump and smack, smack. Instead, just the standard textbook delivery that they suspect cancer, followed by a wave of the hand as if to say, “Now get the hell out of here. I am late for lunch.”

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We Don’t Know

“We don’t know” comes in many forms. For example, the car mechanic quizzed about a part failure often states they don’t know why it failed. The heater-air conditioner technician told me two weeks ago that he did not know why the blower motor was leaking oil. “It’s old.” Children who spray-painted the car are asked why often retort with “I don’t know.” Then there are medical doctors.

“Doctor, I was cutting vegetables. My right wrist, elbow, and shoulder hurt painfully with each cut. So much so that I had to stop.” The doctor looked at his computer, “That’s a great question.” The comment ‘that’s a great question’ is like, “We don’t know.” Of course, the pain could be tendinitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or “You sleepwalk and play drums all night.” A lot of times, doctors don’t know.

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Researchers report that 63% of physicians experienced burnout in 2021. It’s important to understand that burnout is different from mental illness. There are a couple of symptoms of burnout. Consequences of job burnout include excessive stress, fatigue, insomnia., sadness, alcohol or substance misuse, heart disease, high blood pressure, or type 2 diabetes. I am unsure if I have burnout. I believe I do, but I have not received an official clinical diagnosis. Of course, many factors contribute to burnout, including the stress of treating COVID-19 patients for more than two years. Unfortunately, none of the burnout’s other symptoms are valid outside of exhaustion and sadness. 

My former boss stated I should take advantage of medical leave (if required). I have not thought about it too much, but should one? Does the company have an obligation to accommodate my inability to perform the job? If so, for how long? Given that I am saddled with a terminal disease, what is honorable and not? However, taking advantage of such leave means stepping outside my comfort zone to have that required conversation.

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The company’s Human Resources issued an email titled “Yearly Goals.” ​Unfortunately, the email has been in my inbox, unread, for the last six days. I decided I was no longer interested in goals. Technically speaking, I do not want any further treatment, no radiation, no dexamethasone. I want nothing. I wish I were ready to go, but my body seems to say, “Nope. Not yet.”

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